Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Sir Richard Steele’s periodical essays, even more than his four plays, had a major impact on early eighteenth century sensibility. Beginning his journalistic career as the anonymous author of the Whig government’s The London Gazette, Steele later joined with Joseph Addison to produce The Tatler (1709-1711; 188 periodicals by Steele) and The Spectator (1711-1712, 1714; 236 periodicals by Steele), the most influential vehicles of opinion and taste of their day, which consisted of short, fictional essays illustrating an idea, theme, or moral. Steele later wrote, also with Addison, The Guardian (1713), also a vehicle for periodical essays. The Englishman (1713-1714, first series; 1715, second series; periodical essays), The Theatre (1720, later edited by John Loftis and published as Richard Steele’s “The Theatre,” 1920, 1962), and lesser periodicals also came from Steele’s pen. Taken together, these more than seven hundred essays constitute Steele’s major literary achievement. Steele was also an occasional poet, a writer of political tracts such as The Importance of Dunkirk Considered (1713), and a moral philosopher, author of The Christian Hero (1701).